If you read my previous article, then you know I am not a big fan of BlackBerry. I didn’t pay much attention to their annual conference, BlackBerry Live on May 14 (which is just a day before the Google I/O 2013 that I was excited about). One thing about the conference caught my eye through various web sources, and that is BlackBerry Messenger goes cross-platform. BlackBerry Messenger app will be available on both Android and iOS this summer. Starting with just messaging and groups, but eventually gets full featured as a native BlackBerry app.
To me, this is a big and bold move from BlackBerry. Two major advantages of BlackBerry over other vendors are Qwerty keyboard and BlackBerry Messenger. I know many people who stick with BlackBerry devices for these two features alone. By making BlackBerry Messenger available to the major platforms, they potentially give existing customers one less reason to stay.
So why did they do it? My guess is it is all about brand awareness. The new generation is all about iPhone or the latest Android devices. Not that many young people talk about BlackBerry unless it is a work requirement thing. People who own one, they don’t feel proud of it (in my opinion). You don’t see people take out their BlackBerry, and show off how cool the device is.
How does opening BBM help this situation? Instant messaging is huge part of our life nowadays. One of the most popular messaging apps, WhatsApp, has over 200 million users and processes 18 billion messages a day. If BlackBerry can bring a successful BlackBerry Messenger to other platforms with the same success, it certainly makes a lot of sense to make this move. Imagine a BlackBerry icon on every mobile devices, BBM becomes the IM app of choice. It is a great way to reach out to millions of users, and gets a culture-based brand image.
Now the big question is if BlackBerry Messenger can take on other well-established cross-platform IM apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger? Until the Android and iOS versions get all these wonderful features like screen-sharing, browsing your image gallery together, or share a map while planning your trip together, it is hard to say. I guess we will find out if this is a make or a break strategy.